Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Graves

In Bromsgrove today to add some Easter flowers to my mother's grave. The daffodils from St David's Day are still in remarkably good nick.

I like the cemetery. Just as at Christmas, most of the graves have new flowers. It's good to see. Walking the perimeter of the graveyard, I recognise many of the names as old Bromsgrove names, the names of my primary school register - Pinfold, Giles, Banner, Lammas, Chance. There are ornate graves for the Giles family (funeral directors) and the Smith family (travellers), including that of 20 year old Lemintina Smith. Was she as pretty as her name ? And some lump in the throat graves too - mostly children's. A grave with a photograph - a pretty young woman on her wedding day. She died aged 36.

"The sweetest thing I'll ever see
Is my Mummy, smiling at me"

When I started for Cefn y Blaen only two or three people were in the churchyard with flowers. But now the customary beautiful Easter Eve Idyll had fairly begun and people kept arriving from all parts with flowers to dress the graves. Children were coming from the town and from neighbouring villages with baskets of flowers and knives to cut holes in the turf. The roads were lively with people coming and going and the churchyard a busy scene with women and children and a few men moving about among the tombstones and kneeling down beside the green mounds flowering the graves. An evil woman from Hay was dressing a grave (Jane Phillips).

I found Annie Dyke standing among the graves with her basket of flowers. A pretty picture she would have made as she stood there with her pure fair sweet grave face and clustering brown curls shaded by her straw hat and her flower basket hanging on her arm. It is her birthday to-day. I always tell her she and the cuckoos came together. So I went home and got a little birthday present I had been keeping for her, which I bought in the Crystal Palace in January, a small ivory brooch, with the carved figure of a stag. I look the little box which held it out into the churchyard and gave it to her as she was standing watching while the wife of one of her lather's workmen, the shepherd, flowered the grave that she came to dress, for her.

More and more people kept coming into the churchyard as they finished their day's work. The sun went down in glory behind the dingle, but still the work of love went on through the twilight and into the dusk until the moon rose full and splendid. The figures continued to move about among the graves and to bend over the green mounds in the calm clear moonlight and warm air of the balmy evening.

At 8 o'clock there was a gathering of the Choir in the Church to practise the two anthems for to-morrow. The moonlight came streaming in broadly through the chancel windows. When the choir had gone and the lights were out and the church quiet again,
as I walked down the churchyard alone the decked graves had a strange effect in the moonlight and looked as if the people had laid down to sleep for the night out of doors, ready dressed to rise early on Easter morning. I lingered in the verandah before going to bed. The air was as soft and warm as a summer night, and the broad moonlight made the quiet village almost as light as day. Everyone seemed to have gone to rest and there was not a sound except the clink and trickle of the brook.

(Kilvert's Diary, April 16th 1870)

Quote Of The Day

From this Polly Toynbee thread, credited to Larry Elliot :

"Only counter-revolutionary defeatism could explain the failure of the masses to appreciate just how good life was under Labour....the voters greeted the litany of achievements with the same sort of world-weary cynicism characteristic of the Soviet populace under Brezhnev; they assumed the figures were meaningless and that the real beneficiaries of the extra spending were the bureaucrats. They were right on both counts."

I imaigine the quote is from his book. The nearest I can find on the web is this piece, also quotable.

"The sad truth is that nobody in Britain has built a major manufacturing company from scratch since the time of the Attlee Labour government in 1945. All our major manufacturers pre-date the second world war. And yet countries that didn't exist, were only partially literate or were engaged in endless conflict 20, 35 or 45 years ago have managed to build major manufacturing businesses from scratch."

This is not just about competition from low-cost rivals. If globalisation was really to blame for Britain's industrial decline, the same effects would be seen in Finland and Sweden, where costs are even higher. Medium-high technology manufacturing comprises only 3.6% of the UK economy, compared with 9.6% in Germany and 6.5% in Sweden.

How have these countries managed to succeed where Britain has not? My guess is that they are more hard-nosed about it. They probably don't think the development of "soft skills" is a substitute for knowledge; they don't think "emotional intelligence" is a substitute for real intelligence and they don't think whizzy schemes for tax avoidance are on a par with dominance of the global mobile telephone business.

"Supporting Parents"

A senior nurse at a leading public school has been sacked after smacking her 10-year-old son at home.

Susan Pope, 45, was investigated by the police who decided she had done nothing wrong after she hit the boy on his bottom. But the £25,000-a-year boarding school said that because social services remained involved in the case, it could damage the school's reputation. It fired her for alleged gross misconduct. Mrs Pope, who has three children, is taking the school to an industrial tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

The row is likely to reopen the debate about smacking children. Mrs Pope said she hit her son on the bottom after he was abusive and repeatedly swore at her. Her elder son, who was 15, called the police. Mrs Pope and her husband, Folker, a chartered surveyor, were arrested and held in a cell for 32 hours. They were released without charge and officers contacted them to say no action would be taken. However, Worcestershire social services, called when the couple were arrested, placed the 10-year-old and his younger sister, who was eight at the time, on the child protection register. Malvern St James, one of the country's leading girls' boarding schools, said it could not risk damage to its reputation if word got out that the senior nurse's children were on the register. Mrs Pope said: "I feel I have done absolutely nothing wrong and yet have seen my reputation, career and life shattered by this.

Well, whatever your feelings about West Mercia Police, or Mrs Pope's son (a little English Pavlik Morozov) and daughter, the behaviour of the Malvern St James school makes it plain that the leadership are either moral cowards - why not stand by their staff member ? - or that they have an anti-parent agenda. Rosalind Hayes, BA (Hons), MA, PGCE, FRGS should be damn well ashamed of herself.

It could be worse, however. You could send your daughter to this school.

Alison Hughes, the deputy head of the Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, was so concerned that she detailed the "catalogue of disasters" in a two-page letter to parents, warning them about the sexual activity, violent behaviour and alleged drug abuse that took place.

She wrote: "We have had to help a disturbingly high number of girls through the aftermath of having unprotected sex that evening, most of whom have told us they were too drunk to be in control of themselves. The risks are real. Assume the worst."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Forgive Them, Lord ...

I skimmed over the grimmest of my own experiences. For instance, I said little of how I had been made to watch Japanese soldiers having bayonet practice on live prisoners of war tied between bamboo posts; of how I had been taken to witness executions of persons of all races and nationalities for obscure reasons like "showing a spirit of willfulness" or not bowing with sufficient alacrity in the direction of the rising sun. I had never known there could be so many different ways of killing people--cutting off their heads with swords, bayonetting them in many variations, strangling them, burying them alive. But, significantly, never by just shooting them.

I say "significantly" because the omission of this contemporary form of killing was for me striking evidence of the remote and archaic nature of the forces that had invaded the Japanese spirit. Awareness of this dark invasion actually made it impossible for those of us who were prisoners to have personal feelings against our captors. Even at our worst moments of torment, we generally viewed the Japanese as puppets of such immense impersonal forces that they did not really know what they were doing.

It was amazing how often men would confess to me, after some Japanese excess worse than usual, that for the first time in their lives they had realized the truth, and the dynamic liberating power, of the first of the Crucifixion utterances: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." I found that the moment one grasped this fundamental fact of our prison situation, forgiveness became not an act of will or of personal virtue, but an automatic and all-compelling consequence of understanding. The tables of the spirit strangely and promptly turned, and we found ourselves without self-pity of any kind, feeling instead deeply sorry for the Japanese, as if we were the free men and they the prisoners--men held in some profound oubliette of their own minds.

It's difficult to put yourself in his shoes. I imagine I'd be filled with hate and fear, not pity.

Laurens van der Post on Japan and Hiroshima.

UPDATE - the link's a bit iffy - I think their site's got the bonnet up. If you can't link, go to the home page and search (box is top right) for "Laurens". It's the first returned piece.

Sex And Schopenhauer

Entertaining essay at flatrock, with a surprise piece at the end. Apparently we're really after their minds.

Photographs of two attractive women were accompanied by dating adverts and male readers were asked to vote for the woman they felt most attracted to have a serious relationship with. One woman was selected beforehand to be slightly more attractive than the other and in edition A, both women described more or less the same holiday in the same language. In edition B, however, the slightly less attractive woman was given a wider vocabulary.

Readers of edition A favoured the more attractive woman by 63% to 37%. But in edition B the less attractive woman gained in popularity, shifting the voting balance to 57% against 43%. 1800 readers phoned in their opinions in the survey.

Raj Persaud, of the Maudsley Hospital, London, who devised the experiment, said the 6 percentage point shift was enough to be of statistical significance. "This is the first time that an experiment like this has been conducted and the first test of this controversial theory," he said. "It is a very interesting and counter-intuitive result because it suggests that men are influenced by issues beyond appearance. They are making an assessment of a person's mind.

"A lot of women spend a lot of time on their appearance before a date. This suggests that brushing up on their word power may also be helpful. Men are not as predictable as women think they are."

Dr Persaud designed the experiment to follow up the findings of a study published by psychologists Geoffrey Miller, of University College London, and Robin Dunbar, of Liverpool University, who suggested that sophisticated conversation is a sexual display of brain power, rather like a peacock's tail. Their theory may shed light on why it is that we can express almost anything with 850 words, yet the average person has a vocabulary of 60,000 words.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The End Times Are Upon Us II

The water rises higher :

Pupils who make malicious false allegations about teachers should be placed on a school register to protect other staff, a teachers' union says.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said these records should be forwarded if a pupil moves. It also wants charges brought against children as young as 10 who make false allegations.

The government has said it will look at whether further legal changes are needed to protect teachers. The issue was raised at the association's annual conference, in Torquay - as it is every year at teachers' gatherings.

The NASUWT union, for example, says it has had 2,316 allegations brought against its members in recent years, of which 2,231 have been concluded. Only 105 or about 5% had resulted in any action being brought against the teacher. If a pupil makes an allegation, the teacher is normally automatically suspended from work and is not permitted to talk to colleagues or pupils while the matter is investigated - which can take months.

We're hoist on our own liberal petard here. On the one hand, "always believe a child" is pretty much an article of faith - yet nearly every teacher has a tale of a false accusation against colleague or self. You end up in the knots of this child protection policy :

"the teacher should always believe what the student has to say"

followed later by

"there is understandable concern amongst many teachers that careers may be irreparably damaged on the basis of flimsy or malicious allegations by others. The school will endeavour to support any member of Staff against whom allegations may be made"

and still higher :

Pupils and parents are increasingly targeting teachers with offensive e-mails and text messages, union leaders have said. Teachers are also alarmed at the emergence of a “big brother” culture in schools, claiming that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are being installed in classrooms to spy on them.

and higher still :

In his speech, Dr Dunford told heads and senior staff that for too many children, school was the "only solid bedrock in their lives". He highlighted how schools were now expected to set rules about basic behaviour which once would have been the responsibility of parents and the wider community.

Long working hours, chaotic home backgrounds and a lack of positive adult influences in children's lives, meant schools were being expected to patch up social problems rather than focus on educational issues.

"For some families, the focus of family life has been lost - such as eating a meal together - and the loss of a family conversation," he said.

Expanding on the themes, Dr Dunford warned that many children were not receiving a sense of right and wrong from their home backgrounds. "The old certainties have gone and with them the institutions, such as the church, which articulated those certainties. So for some children, it is only the school that provides a framework that sets the line between what is and isn't acceptable."

The head teachers' leader also said that the fixation with celebrity damaged the efforts of schools to make pupils think they had to work hard to succeed. "Celebrity culture makes the job of schools more difficult, because schools try to inculcate values such as hard work bringing rewards".

We've been here before. Compare Dr Dunford :

Dr Dunford told heads and senior staff that for too many children, school was the "only solid bedrock in their lives". "For some children, it is only the school that provides a framework that sets the line between what is and isn't acceptable."

And the aside by the inner-city Birmingham teacher on 'community schools' :

"The government is desperate to get these going," he said, "because they've realised that in the cities community has collapsed. The school is literally the only place where everyone comes together. It's the only community there is - all we've got."

Dr Dunford's speech (the whole thing is available here - the president's speech is worth a read too) is like an epitaph for the Sixties generation and all their bright hopes. Dr Dunford is a sixties type himself - President of Nottingham Union in '68. But he seems to have looked reality in the face.

Not so Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, still frantically rearranging the deckchairs - and for good measure, cutting adrift a few of the remaining lifeboats.

Turning to the curriculum, the ATL leader said teachers should have far more control over what was taught. "Our national curriculum should be far more focussed on the development of life skills and ways of working than whether or not we teach the Battle of Hastings," she said. Dr Bousted told reporters she thought the events of 1066 probably were in fact one of the things children should learn about.

But in general there were "very few things which we need to teach everyone to bind us together as a nation". There was far too much prescription and not enough imparting of the sort of skills children and employers needed. There should be "not so much regurgitation but more interpretation of knowledge". "Too much learning that goes on in primary and secondary school is rote learning and that's not learning for the 21st Century," she said.

A sure sign of b-s is someone who talks in the style of 'learning for the new millenium'. Ms Boustead is still worrying about Mr Gradgrind while standards drop all around her.

Most 'rote learning', aka 'learning by heart' has long gone from the curriculum. Children are no longer required to know that seven eights are fifty-six unless they (in theory) understand WHY seven eights are fifty six, something which IMHO is the province of professional mathematicians. Can't we just take their word that it IS so ?

My daughter is in her final year at a primary school which is one of the top half-dozen in the county. Although I say so myself, she's a bright girl - one of the two or three cleverest in her form. And when you throw "Six sevens !" at her she hesitates, goes to seven sevens and knocks seven off to get the answer. Nearly 50 years after I was taught the answer comes out without me having to think about it.

They're preparing for SATs and are relearning all their tables. Two weeks ago she came home with a piece of cardboard certifying that she knew her TWO times table off by heart. It would be funny if it weren't tragic.

One in four adults has difficulty with mental arithmetic, a survey suggests. Women are less confident than men, with one in three struggling to add up sums in their head, compared to 18% of men, the poll of 2,000 adults found. Those aged over 55 were the most confident at 77%, compared to 64% of the 25-34-year-olds who were the least confident.

The oldies learned by heart.

The chairman of charity Every Child a Chance, which is running the campaign, John Griffiths-Jones, said adult innumeracy was one of the greatest scourges facing the country. "The survey shows how essential it is that the business community gets involved in tackling the problem." The charity is working with the government to develop a programme helping primary-age children struggling with numeracy. "Through the programme we aim to find a long-tem solution".

Well, the long term solution could be what's quoted in this Mary Warnock piece.

Through the dead hours of the morning, through the long afternoons, we chanted away at our tables. Passers-by could hear our rising voices in our bottled-up room on the bank; 'Twelve-inches-one-foot. Three-feet-make-a-yard. Four- teen- pounds- make- a-stone. Eight -stone-a-hundred -weight. , We absorbed these figures as primal truths declared by some ultimate power. Unhearing, unquestioning, we rocked to our chanting, hammering the gold nails home. 'Twice-two-are-four. One-God-is-Love. One-Lord-is-King. One-King-is-George. One-George-is-Fifth...' So it was always; had been, would be forever; we asked no questions; we didn't hear what we said; yet neither did we ever forget it. (Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Five Years Back ...

Or thereabouts ... the third post on this blog. It doesn't stand up too badly.

"... will survival be the biggest worry for most Iraqis ? The US and Brits are going to have to turn themselves into aid workers and/or policemen with some speed. When a strong police state collapses, anarchy often follows - and strangely people don't seem to enjoy it as much as young UK anarchists, many of whom will soon be on London's streets for the annual May Day riots, might think ...

Night is falling in Baghdad. Let's hope they don't wake up to a looted and burning city tomorrow. I'm very pleased - but it seems to me that for the Coalition the hard work has only just begun."

Fame At Last

This blog is #1 in Google for "how to kill badgers with paracetamol"

The End Times Are Upon Us

As the water level rises through the holed hull of HMS Great Britain :

Nearly a third of teachers have been punched, kicked, bitten or pinched by children or attacked with weapons or missiles. More than half of teachers say that their school’s policy on pupils’ poor behaviour is not tough enough and two thirds have considered leaving the profession because of physical aggression, verbal abuse and threats. The survey, published today by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, suggests that excluding the most violent youngsters does not help because they will repeat the pattern of violence at neighbouring schools.

Mary Bousted, the union’s general secretary, said that no teacher should have to put up with the behaviour seen in schools today. “Not only is poor behaviour driving teaching staff away at an alarming rate, it is also damaging the chances of other pupils during lessons by causing major disruptions,” she said.

So does the band on deck play ever faster :

Trouble makers as young as 10 years old are to be asked to sign a good behaviour contract to stop them going off the rails.

And the deckchairs are ever more frantically rearranged :

One of Britain's biggest education authorities is to put happiness at the heart of the curriculum for its 180,000 school pupils. Birmingham City Council is to tell its 440 schools that they must give as much priority to children's emotional well-being as they do to literacy and numeracy.

The authority is believed to be the first in Britain to rewrite its children's development plan – now required by law – to give priority to pupils' happiness.

Children will attend "emotional barometer" sessions to encourage them to express their feelings and their worries. Nursery pupils will also be given coaching in how to prepare for primary school. The aim is to make sure they can communicate properly with other children and behave in the classroom. Similar help will be offered when they transfer to secondary school. This could include appointing older children as mentors.

Les Lawrence, the Conservative cabinet member responsible for children's services in Birmingham, said: "It's not just about happiness for the sake of it. We all perform better when we're smiling. We support our young people in making a positive contribution to society and the economy and prepare them for the world of work, but that would count for nothing if almost half the population are stressed and anxious."

In a paralleldevelopment, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is to debate a call to set up a Royal Commission to find out why so many children are unhappy at school. Union members will tell the association's conference in Torquay that they are worried that so many children – particularly those of primary school age – are displaying signs of anxiety because of the pressures of too much testing.

The idea of "happiness" lessons was introduced by Dr Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Wellington College, the leading independent school.

Note that this is not the product of some far-left Student Grant council leader in thrall to the theories of the late Ted Wragg - Brum is (I think) currently a Lib Dem/Conservative coalition. They are attempting to address a cultural deficit by paying people to make children happy. It doesn't work that way.

If this all seems too gloomy, here's the good (and totally unrelated) news :

The number of women head teachers in England has grown by 7% over the last five years, figures reveal. Flexible working has played a major role in helping women reach the top, according to research by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL). The NCSL's Women in Headship study found that 87% of primary school teachers are women but only 67% of heads are women and in secondary schools 57% of teachers are women, but only 36% of heads.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Translation Sensation

The other day I mentioned the Expressionist and Symbolist playwrights of the 20s.

The glorious magic of Google Translate is that pretty much anything in German sounds straight from Ernst Toller :

I wonder sometimes if I did, what I do, assess needs. I can worthless living standards. There is only a law and declares itself I should not terminate the life, otherwise there is no longer me. I have everything set up so that I can live.

Many changes have first to my disadvantage results. I have all the connections without prejudice investigated and researched for so long, until I was no longer any danger. I use the words very well, correct and true, ugly and wrong, untrue and bad, since I can remember. I express sentiments that. I feel that if something on my actions exerts an influence. My act is free. My thoughts are also free, as long as I feel nothing.

Boom ! Boom !

Rumbold at Pickled Politics on the latest PC lunacy, a police inquiry into a potentially racist episode of Basil Brush (one gets desensitised to these stories, stories that would have seemed pure fantasy only a decade or so back. Maybe that's the idea).

Northampton police sources revealed that they would have pursued Brush sooner had it not been for his powerful friends in the Labour party. Brush is believed to have been one of the key figures behind the Hunting Act, and as such has widespread support amongst the governing party. Police also want to hold the TV fox for twenty eight days, on the grounds that his catchphrase “boom boom!” is incitement to terrorism.

He said it, not me !

Employers don't want UK labour. They want migrant Labour because its on offer and cheap. Its a deliberate strategy by the capitalists and the government to bring jobs down to the lowest pay possible so that white workers who over the last 50 years have fought and won good working conditions will have eventually no choice but to take the crap. Meanwhile employers make and will continue to make huge profits.

Labour Party and TGWU activist Ian at IansRedBlog.

As an ex-TGWU man myself, I don't think it's a deliberate capitalist strategy. It's just capital, as it will, taking advantage. That's what capitalism's about - finding new ways to do things that can make more profit.

Usually, that's beneficial. Our capitalist builds a better mousetrap and people beat a path to his door. He makes lots of dosh, we get better mousetraps and everyone's happy except the mice (and maybe a few cats rendered redundant by technology).

But we don't make mousetraps in the UK any more - they're made in China, where, confounding the hi-tech/hi-wage example of the previous 200 years, industry is hi-tech, low wage (although that may be a high wage in Chinese terms). The hi-wage UK is left with a people-intensive "service sector" in which the costs of the people increase faster than the cost of goods, because human productivity, say in hairdressing or nursing, cannot by the nature of the work increase as fast as industrial productivity.

But cheap world transport - and change in British culture - changes all that. Eamonn Butler's Adam Smith Primer tells us :

The workers’ best friends, Smith surmises, are rising national income and capital growth, because they bid up wages. A landlord with surplus revenue will hire more servants. A weaver or a shoemaker with surplus capital will hire assistants. In other words, the demand for labour rises when – and only when – national wealth rises. The ‘liberal reward of labour’ depends entirely on economic growth.

That scenario supposes a fixed (in the short term, anyway) supply of labour. What if our landlord, weaver or shoemaker could import an almost unlimited number of low-paid servants and assistants ? What if, on top of that, their low pay was topped up by government through a tax credit system - a system originally designed to take low-paid Britons out of poverty ?

If the wages are low enough there's no reason why even in a system of economic stasis or recession our landlord shouldn't hire more servants. There's also nothing to stop him sacking the servants he has and replacing them more cheaply from the almost unlimited pool of new labour.

What was stopping it in Adam Smith's day was the cost of transport, the absence of a government pledged to abolish child poverty (aka "subsidise an employers low wages from tax receipts") and the fact that the locals just wouldn't wear it. A load of foreigners coming in and taking our jobs ? No way !

Now transport's cheap, there's that lovely subsidy, and above all the moral and political objections to undercutting "our own people" (a phrase which immediately brands the utterer with the indelible scar of racism) have been totally marginalised and discredited. The trades unions, which instinctively understood the objections to cheap 'scab' (non-unionised) labour, now welcome the undercutting of an entire working class.

A good capitalist will naturally take advantage of this situation. No conspiracy necessary.

Quote Of The Day

I don't know if it's original, but I'd not heard it before - James at WhatsThatSmell? on Rasputin :

"At the very least, he's so open-minded, his brain's fallen out"

Sell ! Sell ! Sell !

Samizdata on the death of Tony "Dr Doom" Dye.

What Tony Dye did not understand was politics. Every time he was certain that the crash must come, Alan Greenspan (and the mini me versions of him in charge of such institutions as the Bank of England) would just create more money to keep the credit boom going.

"But if he does that it will just make the crash worse when it does finally come" seemed to be Tony Dye's position, and he was right.

The Way We Live Now

Remember the Charlene Downes murder trial ? The 14 year old alleged to have been chopped up and kebabbed ? The jury couldn't come to any verdict against Iyad Albattikhi, accused of murder, or Mohammed Reveshi, accused of the disposal of her body, so the last I heard was a retrial.

At the time of the first trial the kebab shop in question, the Funny Boyz takaway, had its license revoked. The current owner has successfully apppealed against that decision.

Shortly after, there was a visit on the 3rd December 2005 by Mr Shaw and PC Ross who did not give evidence today. Mr Shaw noted two baseball bats behind the service counter. I am convinced what the bats were there for. The baseball bats were in the premises for one reason only – protection. While it may be understandable, it is nevertheless wrong. Such weapons should not be there.

A visit by Mr Shaw on the 10th December 2005 with PC Berry led to the confiscation of a bent claw hammer. Evidence had been given that the claw hammer had been used by the electrician – a legitimate purpose. I don’t accept the explanation; it was behind the counter for the same reason as the baseball bats.

The next visit was in the early hours of New Years Day. Sgt Hurt and PC Ross visited the premises that were open and trading even though the licence only permitted sales until 03.30. The Police had advised takeaways not to admit persons for 15 minutes prior to closing to enable the sales to be completed before the end of the permitted hours. A summons was issued and a trial is pending. The premises were open after they should have been and the appellant does not dispute that. On this occasion, Sgt Hurt, with a view to obtaining evidence, sought to confiscate the till roll. I am satisfied that Tariq Albattikih was uncooperative to the point of being hostile. It may be that he didn’t understand the power the Police had and it took some time for the Police to obtain the roll.

Two points - one being the little vignette of what are doubtless the issues faced when running a late-night takeaway in this gentler, more caring society. Everyone agrees it's "understandable" - but apparently it's also "wrong" to be able to defend yourself and your premises unless yiou can do it bare-handed.

The other is the alleged rape which apparently Iyad Albattikhi was also charged with. Is that anything to do with the Charlene Downes murder case, or is it a seperate issue ?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"It’s the perception of the victims ..."

It's the (reported) police response to these two stories that's illuminating :

Luton, like other enclaves, has experienced a spate of incidents that look all too like attempts to make Bury Park a no-go area to non-Muslims. Between November of last year and last month there were 18 attacks – all registered by the police – on five non-Muslim homes in the area. One couple, Mr and Mrs Harrop, white residents in their eighties, have had bricks hurled through their windows. The home of Mrs Palmer, a widow of West Indian origin, aged 70, has been attacked four times; on one occasion a metal beer keg crashed through her bay window while she was watching TV ...

DCI Ian Middleton of Bedfordshire police says: “It’s the perception of the victims that their Muslim neighbours are to blame, and we have to respect that. But we have our doubts.

Nick Tolson, a former police officer who set up the National Churchwatch safety scheme, said that there had been an increase in faith hate attacks on clergy.

“The harassment is usually coming from young Asian men – often, but not exclusively, Muslim,” he said. “The police and prosecutors will classify an attack on a mosque or Muslim as a hate crime but not if it is a church or a vicar. These aren’t targeted attacks, they are spontaneous, but [the victims] are being singled out because of their faith and should be dealt with in the same way as other members of the community.”

There seems to be a common theme in these stories - one from Luton and one about the attack on a priest in Whitechapel/Tower Hamlets area.

Would that it weren't so, but the default police position seems to be :

Attack on a mosque or attack by white on brown/black - hate crime.

Attack on a church or attack by brown/black on white - crime.

The most obvious proof of this is in checking the initial reporting of racist attacks - which usually takes its cue from the police. The attacks on Anthony Walker, Stephen Lawrence, Kalan Karim, Christopher Alaneme were all declared as racist long before anyone was arrested or brought to trial (and in court only the first two were actually found to be racially motivated).

In contrast, the killings of Ross Parker, Kriss Donald, Isiah Young-Sam - and the serious assault on John Payne - were only declared racist at trial and verdict time. In none of these case did the police declare the attack racist.

It would be interesting if anyone has time, to analyse the 73 BBC news pages for "racist attack" and get a more scientific handle on the initial police responses. I can find only one case where the police declared an attack on a native to be racist "early doors" - and that's when an Englishman was attacked by a Scot.

Too much corruption ...

Baroness Symons, a former Labour minister and a director of British Airways, has been giving the airline access to the House of Lords’ private dining facilities so it can entertain its most profitable customers.

She is one of more than a dozen peers who have been booking the dining rooms to entertain companies for whom they work, leading to complaints that firms are paying peers for access to the Lords’ facilities in the Palace of Westminster. According to documents seen by The Sunday Times, Symons, who was last year paid £39,000 by BA, booked one of the Lords’ private dining rooms seven times in 2007 so the airline could wine and dine its most loyal business customers.

The meals provide BA with the chance to impress customers who hold gold and silver frequent flier cards with a lunch in one of Britain’s most exclusive institutions. This weekend the practice provoked accusations that peers are abusing their position to use the Lords as a corporate dining club. “Parliament should not be used as an exotic restaurant for hire and peers should not be facilitating this,” said Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat MP.

Anything else ? No wonder Gordon Brown announces "green" taxes then approves a third Heathrow runway.

The airport operator BAA has used an elaborate network of lobbying and PR groups, headed by senior Labour figures with access to the government, to promote its controversial plans for a third Heathrow runway. Among the Labour insiders recruited to front pro-aviation lobby groups are Brian Wilson, a former industry and energy minister, and Lord Soley, a former chairman of the parliamentary Labour party.

Jo Irvin, now a member of Brown’s inner circle in Downing Street, not only headed BAA’s public affairs department but also fronted one of the prime lobby groups backing Heathrow expansion. Another Labour apparatchik, Stephen Hardwick, was closely involved in the same lobby group, as well as being employed as director of public affairs for BAA.

Opponents of the third runway claim the links between BAA and the government have given it an undue influence over aviation policy. John McDonnell, a Labour MP, said: “BAA dominates the government’s aviation policy. There have been a number of front organisations over the years that have promoted aviation. They are all funded by the industry and are largely paid lobbyists.”

Bunch of dirty dogs, aren't they ? Haven't a lot of time for Mr McDonnell, but he's right on this one. The suborning of New Labour began when Andersens gave Neil Kinnock a job after 2002 and they've become more and more compromised ever since. I would however be loth to suggest that Mr Cameron's born with a silver spoon up the nose Tories would necessarily be any better.

As their support sinks to 27%, so they're panicking about the core vote. Here's Liam Byrne :

"In the past, people didn't think Labour took immigration seriously. My job is to say, 'the Government has got the message'. Big changes are needed."

A former management consultant ....

He's exactly right. His job is to say things - any things - as long as they can get a few of those votes back.

A fleet of mobile detention vans is being sent out. "They're big trucks with cages in," Mr Byrne explains. "Once upon a time an illegal immigrant who was picked up would be given a map to Croydon and told to turn themselves in. That was nonsense. Now we detain people immediately. Last year we deported 60,000 people, this year we aim for a significant increase."

Big trucks with cages in, eh ? That should claw back a few of those BNP votes. No fierce dogs or guards with whips ? We'll get those if the polls go much lower. And telling people to get to Croydon and turn themselves in is a thing of the past, is it ? Used to be like this ?

Nine suspected illegal migrants arrested at a lorry depot are on the run after police trusted them to make their own way to an immigration office more than 80 miles away. Cambridgeshire police seized the Afghan men as they were hiding in a lorry at a depot in the village of Fordham near Ely. They were believed to have entered on the lorry via a port on the south coast.

Police informed the immigration authorities at St Ives and were said to have waited for immigration officers to arrive, but with all their cells full and without the "capability to look after them", later that day Cambridgeshire police bought the nine men single tickets, gave them verbal travel directions and then escorted them onto a train bound for London. The men were supposed to make their way to the 20-storey Lunar House in Croydon, south London, which houses the headquarters of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA). They were never seen again.

March 11 - 5 days ago.

A Trip To The Theatre

A.G. MacDonnell's first novel 'England, Their England" is now mostly remembered for his chapter on the village cricket match, but there's a lot more to it.

Our hero, Donald, a young Scot making his way in journalism in the 20s, is asked at short notice to produce some theatre reviews for a literary magazine. There was no state subsidy of theatre back in those happy days :

Another thing which made it difficult for him to get his perspective right was the universally acknow­ledged fact that the English Drama, as acted in London, is the lowest form of theatrical art in the world, because the Public will only go to visit trash and would religiously boycott any of the really first‑class plays which are growing dustier and dustier in the cupboards of disillusioned playwrights, even if any manager was so insane as to produce them on the commercial stage. It is left, Donald soon dis­covered, to Societies, Clubs, Groups of Intelligent Theatre-Lovers, and Private Associations of Patrons of the Drama to produce these first-class plays on Sunday evenings for one performance only. Hardly a Sunday in the year goes by without the appear­ance of a masterpiece by Pirandello, Kaiser, Toller, Tchechov, Savoir, Lenormand, Martinez Sierra, or Jean Jacques Bernard, dazzling the eyes for a single day and then dying like the may-fly. Sundays have been on which no fewer than three separate Clubs or Societies have been performing Kaiser's From Morn to Midnight, while on five Sundays out of eight in February and March of one year it was possible to see Toller's Hoppla. Donald, who was conscientious and painstaking, spent a lot of time in the Chelsea Free Library going through the files of The Times and the Manchester Guardian in order to learn the technique of dramatic criticism from the two heads of the craft, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Brown, and he was surprised to discover that in the first seven years of the Peace, twenty-eight of these Sunday Producing Societies had been formed, and that of these twenty-eight, no fewer than twenty-three had started their career with Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.

It was to these Sunday performances of dramatic masterpieces that Donald was looking forward with especial eagerness. He was quite ready to put up with any number of adulteries and murders and high-kicks during the week for the sake of the works of genius, and it was with a real thrill that he presented
himself one Sunday evening, thirty-three minutes before the scheduled hour, at the theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue where he was to see, for the first time, a dramatic masterpiece.

There was no orchestra, and the audience came filtering into the stalls in a queer silence, broken only by the gay greetings of celebrities. For each member of the Club seemed determined to recognize, and be recognized by, as many fellow-members as possible.
It was almost like a competition, so fiercely did the necks twist, the eyes wander, and the lorgnettes focus. Sixteen people, all total strangers, bowed to Donald, and one man, an elderly, baldish bird with an eye­glass, went so far as to rise in his seat in order to bow more impressively. Donald blinked nervously and tried to nod in such a way that, if he really had met the other party somewhere, the movement would pass for a greeting and, if not, for a twinge of rheu­matism in the neck. But the strain became too great, and after a bit Donald concentrated passionately upon his programme.

The piece to be given was the translation of a German masterpiece by Herr Rumpel-Stilzchen, the great exponent of the new Illusionist Symbolism, and it appeared from the programme that the scene was laid throughout in a gallery of a salt-mine in Upper Silesia. It was called, simply, The Perpetuation of Eternity. The producer was Herr von Pumpernikkel, described on the back of the programme as "the Rheinhardt of Mecklenburg-Schwerin," and the incidental choreography was by Dripp. Donald was just wondering what part choreography played in life in Upper Silesian salt-mines when a gong was struck somewhere in the theatre and the lights went out. A pause of seven or eight minutes followed, and then the curtain rose, revealing the eagerly awaited gallery and the exquisite lighting effects of von Pumpernikkel, although actually the latter were not easily detectable at first, as the play opened in com­plete darkness, and for twenty minutes continued in complete darkness. This period of twenty minutes was occupied by a soliloquy by the Spirit of Polish Maternity which, in Rumpel-Stilzchen's original, was written in Polish. The translators, in order to pre­serve the sense of strangeness, of exoticism, had, rather cleverly, translated this part into Italian, and the delivery of the soliloquy was punctuated by frequent bursts of applause from those of the audience, apparently about one hundred per cent, who under­stood Italian. This applause grew more and more marked in emphasis and volume as von Pumper­nikkel's lighting gradually illumined the stage and it became possible to distinguish, even as far as the back rows of the stalls, between those who did, and those who did not, pick up the finer points of the Italian language. It appeared that Donald alone did not, until a big, burly man with a sardonic look on his face, who was sitting by himself a few seats away, observed loudly, "Beastly peasant dialect," where­upon everyone within ear-shot of him stopped ap­plauding and sneered vigorously. At the end of the soliloquy the lights, now flooding the stage with alternate purple and green, lit up the backs of a row of salt-workers who dug and chanted dismally as they worked. The foreman of the gallery then came for­ward and shot two of the workers, whether for bad chanting or for bad digging was not made clear, and immediately all the lights went out except for an illuminated screen of salt background upon which was thrown a cinematograph-picture of New York skyscrapers as observed from a Zeppelin. Then the Chrysler Building and the Woolworth Building and the rest of them vanished suddenly and were followed by a ten-minute reel from the Oberammergau Passion play, during which a negro with a megaphone, stationed in the wings, sang with great gusto a song that was popular during the War and was called, "When that Midnight Choo-choo leaves for Alabam." The curtain came down on the end of the second verse and the middle of The Last Supper. Subdued but sincere clapping greeted the end of the act, and the more senior of the critics went moodily out for drinks.

The second, third, fourth, and fifth and last acts were packed as full as the first with Illusionist Symbolism of the same brilliance and irony. It need only be said that among the "effects" was the murder by the salt-workers of a preference-shareholder of Cerebos Salt, Ltd., by throwing him into a quartz-crushing machine; the tragedy of his final screams, as his top-hat and mother-of-pearl-knobbed cane were sucked into the instrument like the last petals of a rose down a drain, was intensified by a most dramatic “throw-back” to the shareholder’s early boyhood with his dear old father, a town councilor of Hesse-Darmstadt, and his dear old mother, the town councillor's wife, who both drank a good deal of light lager and crooned some folk-songs. There was also a long scene of great poignancy between the Spirit of Irony and the Soul of Upper Silesia, during which the League of Nations came in for some nasty knocks, and there was a powerful bit of the most modern sort of Symbolism in which a salt-digger's mistress was confronted with a lot of the Thoughts which she would have thought if she had been, instead, a champion tricyclist. And Dripp's choreo­graphy turned out to be the Dance of Mourners at the Funeral of a Demented House-Agent, said to be symbolical of the housing shortage during 1925 and 1926 in the Silesian towns of Kattowitz and

In short, The Perpetuation of Eternity was, as one of the penny dailies said next morning, the most arrest­ing piece of thought-provoking symbolism that had been produced since Ernst Toller's Hoppla had been staged on the previous Sunday, or since Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author on the last Sunday but two. The Times gave it three-quarters of a column, but Mr. Brown, to Donald's amazement, called it "a turgid Dripp from the village Pumpernikkel," and enquired "If this is Upper Silesia, what can Lower be like?"